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From NBA Player To Mayor: The Story Of Kevin Johnson

From NBA Player To Mayor: The Story Of Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson had a lot of options while attending the University of California, Berkeley.

Johnson played four years of basketball, where he averaged 14.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He was named to the Pac-10's All-Conference First Team in his junior and senior seasons.

Basketball wasn't Johnson's only sport in college, he also briefly played baseball and had some success.

Johnson's baseball performance in college led to him being drafted in the 23rd round of the 1986 MLB Draft as a shortstop by the Oakland Athletics.

Johnson would play for Oakland's minor-league team in Modesto, California during the summer of 1986. Johnson wouldn't stick with it too long, citing that trying to have a professional baseball career is much riskier compared to a basketball career.


NBA Career

So, Johnson decided to enter the 1987 NBA Draft after four years of college. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Johnson with the seventh overall pick in the first round.

Johnson's career in Cleveland wouldn't last long. In fact, it only lasted 52 games, where he didn't see much playing time as Cavaliers guard, Mark Price's backup.

On February 28, 1988, Johnson was traded, along with two other players, to the Phoenix Suns. This was the change Johnson needed.

Johnson immediately received more playing time, and he started 25 of the 28 games he played with the Suns that season. This was compared to starting only three of the 52 games played as a member of the Cavaliers.

Johnson flourished in his new role, winning NBA Rookie of the Month for April 1988. This rhythm, Johnson found in Phoenix, would carry on to the next season.

In his first full season as a member of the Phoenix Suns, Johnson averaged 20.4 points, 12.2 assists, 50.5% field goal percentage, and 88.2% free-throw percentage.

These numbers were comparable to two other players in the league that season: Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. This was impressive for a second-year man.

Johnson went on to win the 1988-89 NBA's Most Improved Player Award. He'd go on to average at least 20 points and 10 assists in the next two seasons, making it three straight years with those averages.

Johnson joined Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson as the only two players in league history to accomplish that feat.

Johnson's best NBA moment came in the 1992-93 season where he, alongside the MVP that season, Charles Barkley, led the Suns to a 62–20 record, which was the best in the NBA that season.

The Suns would meet Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Finals.

Unfortunately, for Johnson, like every other foe that met Jordan in the Finals, his Suns would lose the series, 4-2, and the championship.

Johnson would initially retire after the 1997-98 NBA season, citing injuries as a part of his decision to walk away.

After one year off, his old Phoenix Suns coach called him and asked if he'd like to make a comeback and replace the Suns' then star guard, Jason Kidd, who went out with an injury.

Johnson agreed to come back, and he played the final six games of the 1999-00 NBA season. He would go on to play nine playoff games before the Suns were knocked out of the playoffs and Johnson would retire for good… from the game of basketball, that is.


Mayor Kevin Johnson

Mayor Kevin Johnson

After basketball ended for Johnson, he decided to go back to college, this time for his B.A. in Political Science. He obtained this degree from U.C. Berkeley.

On March 5, 2008, Johnson shocked the political world when he announced he would run for mayor of Sacramento, his hometown.

Johnson took on incumbent Heather Fargo for mayor, and he would end up winning in a runoff.

In college, Johnson had some success. In the NBA, Johnson has success. But his most successful career has to be his time as mayor.

Johnson started many great programs in Sacramento, like the Sacramento Steps Forward program, which was put in place to try to end homelessness.

The STAND UP program was established to help increase student achievement. Greenwise initiative was launched to diversify economic development, go green, and promote Sacramento as the “Emerald Valley.”

Sacramento READS! was instated to stop what people were calling, “literacy crisis in Sacramento”.

The program was designed as a 10-year initiative to ensure all children in Sacramento can read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade by focusing on school readiness, attendance, and limiting summer learning loss.

One of his biggest programs established was to help with the ever-growing gang violence the city of Sacramento was seeing.

The Gang Prevention Task Force became a three-year city-county partnership to reduce gang violence through school-based and job-training programs.

Johnson ran for re-election in 2012, and he easily won. His time as mayor of Sacramento won him many accolades.

Johnson was elected as the Second Vice President of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) in June 2012.

He became the first Sacramento mayor to be elected to the Second Vice President position and became the first Sacramento mayor to serve as president.

In 2013, Johnson became president of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM), but he wasn't done yet.

He served on the board of directors for the University of California Alumni Association, Phoenix Suns Charities, Christian Athlete Ministries, Phoenix Symphony, the School House Foundation, Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG), and on the advisory board for the Caring Institute.

For all the work that Johnson has done in the community of Sacramento and beyond, helped him win many prestigious awards.

Johnson was selected as one of the “15 Greatest Men on Earth” by McCall's. He has received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, the John R. Wooden Lifetime Achievement Award 2008, and the Good Morning America Award from Sports Illustrated.

Johnson even won the “Most Caring American” award by the Caring Institute. This goes to show that people don't need to be boxed into one thing.

Johnson proved he could be great at sports and politics. His term as mayor ended on December 13, 2016.

Johnson's time in politics may be over, but he's still involved in charities around the Sacramento community, proving the job is never done for helping others. 

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